Artists

Maria Thereza Alves. This is Not an Apricot. Watercolor paintings on paper, 2009 #

In a market in Manaus, in the Amazon, Alves asked a fruit seller the names of the fruits in his stand. They were all very different, but they were all round, and in each case he said they were apricots, though none of them were. They were all indigenous fruits and he had no idea what they might otherwise be called.

Laurie Anderson. Heart of a Dog. Film, 75’, 2015 #

Heart of a Dog began as a film commissioned by the Franco-German public television station Arte, as part of a series featuring artists talking about the meaning of life and work. Centring on Anderson’s beloved rat terrier Lolabelle, who died in 2011, Heart of the Dog is a personal essay that weaves together childhood memories; video diaries; philosophical musings on data collection, surveillance culture and the Buddhist conception of the afterlife; and heartfelt tributes to the artists, writers, musicians and thinkers who inspire her. Fusing her own witty, inquisitive narration with original violin compositions, hand-drawn animation, 8 mm movies and artwork culled from exhibitions past and present, Anderson creates a hypnotic, collage-like visual language out of the raw materials of her life and art, examining how stories are constructed and told—and how we use them to make sense of our lives. 

Jonathas de Andrade. O Peixe (The Fish). 16mm (2k), 23’, Sound 5.1, 16:9 (1.77), 2016 #

The video O Peixe (The Fish) depicts fishermen from a village on the northeast coast of Brazil enacting a ritual in which they embrace the fish that they have caught. Shot on 16mm film, recalling an ethnographic lens, the work hovers between myth and document. The scenes in the film, simultaneously brutal and tender, confront the viewer with the tension and pathos of the dying process, up until the fish takes its last breath. At that exact moment, the scene moves on to the next couple—man and fish—and the tension begins again, transforming this single action, through endless repetition, into a ritual. The affectionate gesture that accompanies the passage of death is a testament to a relationship between species that is imbued with strength, violence and domination.

Lotta Antonsson. Paths to Inner Power III. Installation, 2017 #

Paths to Inner Power III is an installation consisting of photography, collages, sea shells, crystals,
other found objects, sculptures, textile and printed matter. This new work, produced especially for
SURVIVAL KIT 9, examines desire as a crucial element of spiritual transformation. It will be exhibited
in the library of the former Faculty of Biology of the University of Latvia.

Hildur Bjarnadóttir. Symbiotic Relationship. Silk, plant dye, acrylic paint, 2016 #

During the last few years Bjarnadóttir has worked on an extensive project which has its material and conceptual roots in a piece of land she acquired in 2013 in Flóahreppur, in the south of Iceland. The land functions as a platform for contemplating issues of belonging and ecological disruption. The plants on this piece of land are the source of colours for silks which create areas and situations within the spaces of the Former Faculty of Biology of the University of Latvia. For Bjarnadóttir, colour is a material which carries information about the place, people and animals that belong to it, and the social and ecological system that surrounds it. The plants act as recording devices; they collect information through the soil and the air, as well as their roots, petals, flowers and leaves. This information is passed on in the colours Bjarnadóttir extracts from the plants and which she has used to make the works for Survival Kit 9. 

Juris Boiko. Mushroom Drawings. Pencil on paper, 2000 #

Over his creative career from the mid-1970s until the early 2000s, Boiko made countless mythologised drawings of mushrooms. Instead of being finished works, these drawings were contained to the artist's visual diaries and daily notes, and thus are unknown to the broader public. Mushrooms figure frequently in Boiko's texts and works, both in the absurd novel ZUN and the play Magulaks. Pilzenbrecher, or “mushroom breaker”, is a character that appears in the song lyrics on the 1987 NSRD album Binokulāro deju kursi [Binocular Dance Lessons]. Images of mushrooms materialise in the video The Grindstone of the Spring, and also in Boiko's poems and unpublished short stories, yet the vast majority appear in his sketches, which number in the hundreds. Many newly created kinds of mushrooms can be encountered, for example: mushroom-eye, mushroom-ear, mushroom-phallus, mushroom-fish, mushroom-tongue, mushroom-brain, water mushrooms, fire mushrooms and others.

The discrete mythology of mushrooms, as Boiko called the ideological presence of mushrooms in the thought-space of the NSRD, fits among what Boiko and Lediņš referred to as their “associative sub-structures”. These projects provided theoretical extensions to the creative projects of the NSRD, and included the Approximate Art Studio, and Doctor Eneser's Binocular Dance Lessons as part of the Intimate Laboratory of Approximate Misunderstanding.

Text: Māra Žeikare

 

Andris Eglītis. Laboratory of Poetic Research. Gelatine, mould, potassium permanganate on canvas, 2017 #

In characterizing his work, Andris Eglītis chose to quote a fragment from an interview with Theodore Zeldin: “RL: […] What makes humans different from animals, plants, fungi, machines?

Zeldin: I would say that they possess imagination and curiosity and this makes them think that the world is not what it looks like.” (From Arnis Rītups' interview with the Oxford historian Theodore Zeldin in the magazine Rīgas laiks, June 2017, p 19). Spending his summers in Drusti – in a corner of the Latvian wilderness without a proper access road – Eglītis disappears “into the wild”, striving to coexist with the self-sufficient natural environment, humbly listening, observing and submitting to it, as well as struggling against it and retaking his territories. Nature is also given an equal role in the development of Eglītis’ works, being invited to demonstrate both a kind of imagination and a curiosity. Merging chance with certainty, large-format paintings are made over long periods of time out in the pond, swamp, forest and meadow, where the sun, wind, rain, insects, birds and animals leave their traces on them, letting Eglītis himself climb out of the role of the anthropocentric creator and feel like one of nature's creatures.

Text: Solvita Krese

 

Ieva Epnere. Green School. HD video, installation, 2017 #

“...Beginning from August 1908, lessons are taught at the kindergarten according to a universally recognised foreign example by four children's gardeners, with Ms M. Rink as head. The children are divided into 4 groups: each has its own classroom in its own special colour (even the furnishings are of the same colour).”

(Jonīte, Vineta. Latvju bērnu dārzu māte Marta Rinka. Dzīves gājums un veikums fotogrāfijās un dokumentos [The Mother of Latvian Kindergartens Marta Rinka. Life and Work in Photographs and Documents]. Riga: author's edition. 2012, p 30)

Green School is the kindergarten of Augusts Dombrovskis' factory, established in 1900. Upon receiving the invitation to create a work for Survival Kit 9, Epnere had no in-depth knowledge about this educational institution, but the process of researching this school turned into an exciting journey during which the artist encountered the book Latvju bērnu dārzu māte Marta Rinka [The Mother of Latvian Kindergartens Marta Rinka] and its author, the only scholar of Marta Rinka's biography in Latvia – kindergarten historian Vineta Jonīte. Marta Rinka was the establisher, backbone and soul of the Green School. She was educated in the renowned Pestalozzi-Froebel-Haus in Berlin in order to return to Latvia and introduce her singular pedagogical system in the Green School. The life story of this woman is very special yet unfortunately little known to the broader public.

Special thanks to historian of kindergartens Vineta Jonīte, VFS FILMS (Vides Filmu Studija), shop “2zoles”, flower shop “Ar putniem”.

Annika Eriksson. I Am the Dog That Was Always Here (Loop). Video loop, 7’, 2013 #

The video work I Am the Dog That Was Always Here (Loop), set on the outskirts of Istanbul, focuses on moments of transition and marginalised experiences of time as seen through the lens of a street dog. Having been moved by the authorities to peripheral pockets and no man’s lands outside the expanding city, the dogs are continuously moving along lines of gentrification and corporate city making. Through looping and repetition, Eriksson relates this process to an experience of time: exploring the present as a complex gap between past and future, one in which an increasing process of erasure, spurred on by a shrinking public realm, also removes other registers of being and seeing. The work was originally commissioned for the 13th Istanbul Biennial in 2013.

Andris Grinbergs / Laima Žurgina. The Ugly Duckling – Child of Man. Director Laima Žurgina Documentary film, 20’48”, 1985 #

The film tells the story of the period after 1976 that Grinbergs spent working at the special boarding school in Mazirbe. The school was attended by young people with special educational needs who often came from disadvantaged families. Grinbergs taught drawing, taking the programme that had been developed in Moscow for the entire USSR by the pedagogue Boris Nemensky and adapting it for the needs of a special school. Developing his idea of art as therapy, Grinbergs created the cycle Apple Tree, in which young people chose a tree from the school garden that they cared for, made drawings of and conversed with in letters. The film uncovers a brief episode that shows that it was possible (albeit sometimes only briefly) for manifestations of underground culture as well as radical methods of alternative education to enter and exist in the unified Soviet cultural space.

Text by Inga Lāce

Ehsan Ul Haq. I Love Morality. Site specific installation, 2017 #

I Love Morality investigates the egotistical nature of human beings while also negotiating the idea of its own futile existence. Ul Haq’s project is an attempt to depict humanity’s basic survival mechanisms by putting a spotlight on not only the relations between humans, animals and plants, for example, or humans and other humans, but also on the power gradients that make up these relations. Ul Haq reveals the human being’s manipulative nature, which is embedded in its wish to classify – to name, control, and subordinate. By exploring the natural history collections available on site, the project will search for potential alternatives: new ways by which human beings might exist in more equal relation with other living and non-living beings.

Jim Holyoak. Book of Nineteen Nocturnes. Artists’ book, 2017 #

Book of Nineteen Nocturnes is a 500-page-long, hand-drawn and assembled artist’s book, 17 years in the making. Each of its 19 chapters is hand bound as an individual accordion book containing graphite drawings, watercolours, ink paintings, ink-jet prints and collaged text. Both the text and images were developed while traveling (often trekking) and attending residencies throughout Nordic Europe, Canada, the Himalayas and China. Although the story and its setting are fictional, both were heavily inspired by life in these places: the animals and vegetation, the landscapes and skies, and the shifts in weather and lighting. Echoing the genres of painterly and musical nocturne, the book is driven by its ambient, nighttime setting – a realm populated by wandering monsters. It is about being lost, lonely and homesick. While reminiscent of a graphic novel or an illustrated fairytale, the book is also akin to an illuminated manuscript or a grimoire. 

Nona Inescu. Gommage. Archival print on Hahnemühle paper mounted on plywood plinth, sycamore tree bark flakes (painted), 2016. Drawings from Caterpillars Ink on paper, 2015. Where Touch Begins, We Are Single-channel HD video, 7'35", 2016 #

The series of three works seen here highlights the interrelation between nature and humans, with an emphasis on the actions performed by hands on natural elements and surfaces. Drawings from Caterpillars is a series of botanical drawings in which leaves featuring irregular holes and marks left by caterpillars or other types of ‘pests’ are used as templates for ink drawings. Gommage formulates an analogy between human skin enhancement treatments and the natural environment by emphasising the processes of exfoliation and moulting/ecdysis, in which animals routinely cast off parts of their bodies. These two works are linked by a third, the video Where Touch Begins, We Are, which presents an investigation of the tactile sense in a dystopian manner, and features sound by Chlorys and a voiceover text by Anne Carson (an excerpt from Before Sexuality: The Construction of Erotic Experience in the Ancient Greek). The video work assembles a collection of gestures on touch-sensitive surfaces ranging from natural examples, such as the plant Mimosa pudica, to touchscreens and memory foam. 

Britta Marakatt-Labba. The Move The Door Fireplace Stones (in sámi language Arran). Embroidery, stones, 2017 #

Marakatt-Labba is presenting a project consisting of three works dedicated to the movements of Kiruna city: a textile embroidered on old, creased sailcloth; the door of a traditional Sámi lavvu home in repainted and embroidered textile; and fire place stones, which in a lavvu occupy the main area and provide the necessary warmth. Place and location are very important to the Sámi people – that’s why each of the stones features an engraving of a different place. The Sámi people have always lived in harmony with nature, and when moving will return all of their building materials to nature. Only the stones stay, and after a while they are taken over by moss. These three works address the mining industry in northern Sweden, and form a reflection on Scandinavian colonialism and the fate of indigenous identities. 

Christine Ödlund. Stress Call of the Stinging Nettle; Musical score, 2008. Stress Call of the Stinging Nettle; Video, 8’, Mpeg-4, Codec H264, Audio, 2 channeled, 2008 #

Stress Call of the Stinging Nettle references both educational botanical illustrations and amateur watercolour studies of nature. It is a work based on Ödlund's observations of the chemical activity within a population of stinging nettles while butterfly larvae are feeding on one of their group. She compiled measurements taken at different times during this attack, constructed a score, and placed all of the data along its timeline so that a day in reality was equivalent to a minute of music. She then smelled a concentrated form of every individual substance emitted by the plants, and gave to each scent a description, a corresponding colour and an acoustic profile. Ödlund's goal is to immerse herself in her subject and thereby create work in which she can combine her interest in the natural sciences with music, while at the same time questioning the possibility of bridging the language barrier between humans and plants.

Andrej Polukord. The Sarcophagus (II). Installation, 2017 #

The Sarcophagus (II) is a situation in which guidelines are provided for the collecting of mushrooms. Visitors are given instructions, acquainted with real and artificial examples of mushrooms, and introduced to the best places for carrying out mushroom harvests. In receiving this knowledge, the visitors become fully fledged mushroom collectors.

Krišs Salmanis. On One's Own; Wood, needle, electric motor, vinyl record, support, 2017. Colour Samples: Common Chaffinch, Hoopoe, Eurasian Blue Tit, Common Crane, Bullfinch; Watercolour on paper, 2016 #

A needle attached to a slender birch tree reads from a vinyl record the song of a chaffinch recorded a couple of years ago. Back then, the bird had perched within arm's reach on a similar branch of a tree, intoxicated by its own song. Salmanis managed to film it. Since then, from time to time he has wondered how the chaffinch is doing and how he might return to this incident once more. There are no amplifiers or speakers in the installation; the situation is almost analogue.

Nomeda Urbonas & Gediminas Urbonas. The Psychotropic House: Zooetics Pavilion of Ballardian Technologies. Installation, 2017 #

The Psychotropic House: Zooetics Pavilion of Ballardian Technologies is a discursive experiment that aims to articulate ‘Zooetics’—a notion in progress—and explore new ways for human knowledge and research to engage with other forms of life by imagining designs, prototypes and interfaces for future interspecies ecologies. The Zooetics Pavilion draws inspiration from the short stories found in Vermilion Sands (1971), a science fiction book by the English author J. G. Ballard that imagines a world where technological devices are alive and sentient, a world where houses, for example, are capable of responding to the emotional states of their inhabitants. Work investigates how relations between life and non-life, human and non-human, may be on the one hand unknowable, remaining unmapped by existing cartographies of knowledge, and yet at the same time necessary and unavoidable. The Zooetics Pavilion thus calls for new forms of aesthetic and scientific imagination.

James Webb.There’s No Place Called Home (Riga). Songs of a Sichuan bush warbler, native to central China, broadcast from a speaker concealed in a tree in Riga, Latvia, 2017.Title Unknown (for the former Faculty of Biology of the University of Latvia),2017 #

There’s No Place Called Home (Riga) is the latest iteration of Webb’s ongoing, worldwide intervention in which recordings of foreign birdsong are broadcast from speakers concealed in local trees. First produced in 2004, this artwork is remade afresh in each site using a recording of a different species. For Survival Kit 9, Webb employs the songs of a Sichuan bush warbler (Locustella chengi), native to central China, to subtlety affect the local environment, referencing themes of magic, migration, and ecological contingency.

 

Title Unknown (for the former Faculty of Biology of the University of Latvia) takes the underwater calls of seals as its genesis. Using scientific recordings of Weddell seals, Webb worked with ethnomusicologist Cara Stacey to imagine these sounds for articulation by the human voice. The singer Julianna Venter was then invited to perform the scored recordings. The results are an eerie and visceral compendium of shrieks, grunts, and hisses, and are broadcast in the stairwells of the former Faculty of Biology of the University of Latvia like a restless spirit inhabiting the building.

Gernot Wieland. Thievery and Songs. 16:9, 22’40” video, sound, colour, 2016 #

In Thievery and Songs Wieland has made an exceptionally beautiful, tragicomic and humorous work that is framed by the story of a dancer, Hilde Holger, who in 1938 had to flee from Austria into exile in Bombay because she was Jewish. This collage of moving images is composed of Super 8 film, video, watercolours, drawings, claymation, and Wieland’s father’s photographs. Each frame carries the distinctive atmosphere of its medium. The work includes stories of animals and psychotherapists; memories of Wieland’s Catholic education; the religious-like indoctrination of the Viennese actionists in Austrian culture; a transformation into a snail, which, in the turns of its narrative, bears a relationship to landscapes; the notion of memory and hierarchy; and a therapeutic session.

“We filmed dance movements in a government building, which was important to me. You can tell it is a government building, where you apply for a new passport, you can get married, there is a tax office – the official life, so to speak. I wanted that setting as a ‘quote’ for Austria’s past, since there were so many people who were responsible, who decided”, Wieland explains.

Text by Zasha Colah, 2016

Wong Kit Yi. A River in the Freezer. Essay film, 25”, 2017 #

A River in the Freezer is a 25-minute essay film that combines directed and found footage in order to meditate upon glacial memory, cryogenics, and frozen fiction. Kit Yi synthesizes disparate subjects—including the Norwegian town of Longyearbyen (where no one is allowed to die), the fair-haired manga character Cygnus Hyōga, colour wavelength theory, the 19th-century global ice trade, and the cost of ice cubes in Hong Kong today, among many others—within a karaoke-inspired sing-along format.